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SC urged: Oust solon, party list

The Federation of Philippines Industries Inc. has asked the Supreme Court to disqualify LPG Marketers Association Inc. party-list and remove its representative Arnel Ty from membership in the House of Representatives.

Arnel Ty
In a 27-page petition filed last May 6, the 800-member business group assailed the decision of the Commission on Elections dated March 24, 2014 that affirmed the LPGMA qualification in the May 2013 elections.

The business group claimed that the Comelec committed grave abuse of discretion in accrediting LPGMA as a party-list group despite failure of the group to prove its qualification as a sectoral party based on standards laid down by the SC in a decision in April last year.

In that decision, the high tribunal ruled that for sectoral parties to qualify in the party-list polls, majority of their members as well as their nominees must belong to the respective sectors they represent that should still be “marginalized and underrepresented.”

“While the Comelec declared that the LPGMA represents a sector that lacks a well-defined political constituency, it made no finding at all whether or not the majority of LPGMA’s members are small and independent traders and marketers of LPG. Neither did it make any finding as to whether or not LPGMA’s nominees are small and independent traders and marketers of LPG,” petitioner argued.

“The absence of such finding it quite conspicuous from Comelec Resolution dated 24 March 2014. It did not even devote a single sentence to discuss these issues. This is clear defiance of the directive of this Honorable Court and, hence, constitutes grave abuse of discretion,” the FPI through lawyer Rufino Margate Jr. said.

FPI said that LPGMA should not be allowed seat in the House of Representatives – now being occupied by Rep. Arnel Ty – simply because it “merely operates as a cartel, imposing and fixing the price of LPG in the Philippine market.”

Citing issue of regulation, petitioner questioned the membership of Rep. Ty in Congress when he and his supposed constituents are supposed to be subject to regulation of the Department of Energy (DOE).

“How can we expect the DOE to properly and effectively regulate the businessmen and traders belonging to the LPGMA when Cong. Ty has the power to summon and lambast even the Secretary of the DOE?” the FPI said.

The FPI also raised issues of lobbying, improper use of power and conflict of interest.

“While LPGMA’s contribution in Congress has not been clear, it is obvious that the effect of its election so far is solely to advance the interest of its members vis-à-vis other businessmen engaged in the LPG business. It has perpetrated and still seeks to perpetuate a basis unfairness that defeats and makes a travesty of proportional representation. It has institutionalized a cartel. That has never been the object of the Constitution,” they said.

With these grounds, petitioner asked the high tribunal to set aside the assailed Comelec resolution – in which Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. had dissented - and declare LPGMA as not qualified as a sectoral party-list group.

 For his part, FPI chair Jesus Arranza warned that allowing LPGMA to keep its accreditation “would encourage other business and money-making groups to join the party-list bandwagon.”

“But nowhere in the partylist system or in the Constitution does it provide for a slot for the sector of businessmen, traders, marketers and retailers of LPG simply because we are not marginalized,” he stressed in an interview.

It was the second time FPI questioned before the SC the participation of LPGMA in the party-list elections.

In February last year, the group filed a petition in the high court seeking to stop Comelec from allowing LPGMA to participate in the elections. It questioned Comelec resolution dated Dec. 13, 2012 that retained the LPGMA partylist registration.

The SC dismissed the February petition, saying there was no point in remanding to the poll body the complaint for cancellation of the group’s accreditation since it had already issued another resolution that included the LPGMA in the list of accredited party-list organizations allowed to run in the May 2013 elections.

“Evidently, the Comelec has already determined and declared that the present factual circumstances of LPGMA meet the qualifications imposed by law on party-list groups,” the SC stressed.

The FPI filed a motion for reconsideration in July last year. And a month after, the SC reversed itself and resolved to grant the FPI’s motion and remand the petition to the Comelec.

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